Challenge: Bringing a health sector start-up successfully to market
Solution: Finding a niche to attract investors
Entrepreneurs at a Nova Scotia start-up have something to smile about. PhotoDynamic is poised to change the oral health of individuals around the world who produce a lot of plaque, or bacteria, on their teeth. This plaque, a soft, sticky film that builds up on enamel, causes decay and gum disease. “We’re giving people a way to prevent the damage from occurring from the outset,” says CEO Martin Greenwood.
PhotoDynamic was launched in 2012 after one of its founders, chemistry professor Dr. Sherri McFarland, discovered a local plant could fight dental plaque. “It’s off the chart in its ability to perform as an antimicrobial agent,” says Martin.
For the past six years, the Halifax-based company has been focused on bringing its product to market, a timeline that is common for many start-ups, especially those in the health field. “It’s a long process,” notes Martin. “We’re two years away from a product launch.”
An assessment of the product’s capability and the market demand was followed by pre-clinical trials. Now data from the first clinical trial is about to become available. The focus is on making the product easy to use; the preventive treatment takes only one minute from start to finish.
The market for the new technology is healthy. Roughly 20 per cent of the population are high-plaque formers. That translates into as many as 60 million people who could be using the new product regularly. The technology is also useful for brace wearers, because it kills the bacteria that cause white spot lesions around brackets.
Not surprisingly, the start-up has sparked the interest of both local investors and multinational companies. “Prevention is a lifetime business,” says Martin. “Our product is more cost-effective than dental planing and scaling.”
“A lot of prevention doesn’t show immediate benefits or an immediate response. With this you do,” he adds. “We’ve got a real winner.”
For other entrepreneurs with winning ideas, Martin recommends reaching out for support. “Connect with others who have experience and expertise. This will help you hit your milestones. Then you just keep going.”
“Go as far as you can,” he stresses. “[The community] will help you learn if your product will succeed or fail. That is the nature of business – and it is incredibly important.”
Agencies like ACOA can also be very helpful, especially in the early years when there is no revenue being generated, Martin notes. “We wouldn’t be here without programs like those offered by ACOA.”
Accessing financial capital is something the Government of Canada recognizes as critical to building, growing, and scaling a business. With support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), the government is helping PhotoDynamic make strides in improving the oral health of individuals everywhere. A recent investment of more than $185,000 will go towards the development of their proprietary safe and effective natural antimicrobial treatment.
PhotoDynamic Inc. is a prime example of how innovation and resourcefulness fuel Atlantic Canada’s economy, at home and beyond.
For more information on programs and services available to businesses in Atlantic Canada call 1-800-561-7862 or go to www.acoa-apeca.gc.ca
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